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The Incident - Porcupine Tree
Member Name: caseybrady1992
The Incident - Porcupine Tree
Date: 25/09/10, updated on 25/09/10 (57 review reads)
Advantages: Accessible, progressive music; beautiful melodies; great production
Disadvantages: Weak moments; use of second disc when it could be done in one!
Porcupine Tree, featuring members Steven Wilson (guitar, piano, vocals, composer), Richard Barbieri (keyboards and synths), Colin Edwin (bass guitar) and Gavin Harrison (drums and percussion), have moved onwards and upwards since 2002's 'In Absentia'. For their latest release, 'The Incident', the band dialled down the heaviness that was enormously apparent in 2007's 'Fear of a Blank Planet', the album release prior to The Incident. The album was release on Sept 14 2009, and is the band's 10th studio release.
The Incident is a concept album. The idea was conceived when Wilson was caught in a traffic jam due to an 'Incident', made clear on the words of a sign: 'POLICE - INCIDENT'. Wilson realised how detached a word 'incident' is for an occurrence that will often evoke a lot of trauma for all people involved. Wilson apparently had a sensation that the spirit of a person who had died in the incident was sitting next to him in his car, and he was inspired. Fixated on the irony of the word 'Incident', Wilson began researching other incidents that had occurred, and in this album, Wilson aims to convey the thoughts and feelings of those involved in certain incidents that particularly stood out. His aim was to bring a somewhat personal element to the table, dismissing this detached feeling that the word 'incident' suggests.
The album spans across two discs, the first of which features only one song: 'The Incident'. Quite like Transatlantic's 'The Whirlwind', the song is more of a suite, and features movements. 'The Incident' in total lasts just over 55 minutes, but the second disc features four separate tracks, but due to the significance and brilliance of track 1, 'The Incident', these four tracks are almost dismissed to begin with, and almost seen as a bonus disc rather than part of the album. The four songs are great in their own respect however, and should not be ignored. All meet the genre of 'Progressive', although there is a mix of both rock and metal in the album, as well as a bit of folk and electronica. The entire track list is as follows...
1. The Incident (55.15)
I. Occam's Razor (1.55)
II. The Blind House (5.47)
III. Great Expectations (1.26)
IV. Kneel and Disconnect (2.03)
V. Drawing the Line (4.43)
VI. The Incident (5.20)
VII. Your Unpleasant Family (1.48)
VIII. The Yellow Windows of the Evening Train (2.00)
IX. Time Flies (11.40)
X. Degree Zero of Liberty (1.45)
XI. Octane Twisted (5.03)
XII. The Sťance (2.39)
XIII. Circle of Manias (2.18)
XIV. I Drive the Hearse (6.41)
2. Flicker (3.42)
3. Bonnie the Cat (5.45)
4. Black Dahlia (3.40)
5. Remember Me Lover (7.28)
Total length: 75.56
The album kicks off with three striking chords in 'Occam's Razor' that introduce The Incident fantastically. The effect is strong, and it is emphasised by some great production and sound quality, that speaks for the entire album. The track is short, and moves on rather quickly into 'The Blind House', which is one of my favourite tracks on the album, featuring sharp contrasts between distorted, heavy sections and quieter, mellow sections. The song features some eerie harmonising vocals and some very strange synths, but form an impressive combination. The song is based on a very real and a very serious occurrence that happened in March 2008. A large group of teenage girls were being held in a YFZ (Yearning for Zion) Ranch in Texas, and were being 'groomed' into certain ways and being sexually abused.
And such 'incidents' are discussed in the movements of The Incident, which can be interpreted through Wilson's excellently written and constructed lyrics. Track 3 'Great Expectations' could possibly be a follow-up to previous track, talking of a person being locked up and forgotten, and 'Kneel and Disconnect' is rather open, perhaps talking of a person who floats from one job to another, never achieving their dreams. The incidents discussed vary significantly, but are conveyed as tragic all the same. It's as if Wilson is comparing all of them, and it is interesting whether or not he is saying that they are equally tragic or not. The way in which all of the incidents are grouped under a singular title: 'The Incident' may suggest that Wilson believes them to all to be equally traumatic.
The summery, light feel of 'Great Expectations', the wonderful but strange harmony of 'Kneel and Disconnect' and the fantastically conveyed rock nature of 'Drawing the Line' deem them to be some of the better tracks on the album, in my opinion, but the musical focus is lost in 'The Incident', that is track VI. Instead, an electronic, moody aura is collected, but it never loses interest here. I don't know whether it is because I know Wilson's concept, but a 'trafficky' feel is created, and it works. Far from my favourite track, but it is good in it's own respect.
The centrepiece of the album, 'Time Flies' is the ninth track of the album, and deals with loss. Written in the first person (although some of the other tracks are too), there are suggestions that the song is semi-biographical. Wilson writes that how time flies is tragic, and the song is pastoral and nostalgic, reminiscing on a simpler time where the protagonist was in love. The line 'And the coat you wore to Alton Towers / It's still the way I see you now' is quite raw and British, but is tragic, and relates to many in a strange way despite being quite personal - there are many who have loved and lost. The music itself, I feel, is the one of the weaker moments on the album, and the instrumental break is quite tiresome, but Wilson does this for a reason. The driving repeated chordal pattern creates a rather boring effect, but, before you know it, the song is over, despite the break being quite lengthy, 'and after a while, you realise time flies'.
'Degree Zero of Liberty' is very similar to 'Occam's Razor', so with that in mind, it could be said that it reintroduces the album, and maybe the last five movements are seen as 'Act II' of The Incident. The following three tracks are all very similar in style, and play around with shared themes, musical ideas and lyrics. From peculiar acoustic guitar arpeggios to heavy, overdriven guitar riffs accompanied by rumbling tom-focused drum parts, and from creepy falsetto-vocal harmonies to an array of brilliant synth effects. There is vast melodic interest in these songs, and I really like them. But the suite concludes with the mellow 'I Drive the Hearse'. Wilson provides a beautiful acoustic guitar part, and compliments it wonderfully with his simplistic vocals. The lyrics are odd but tragic, with lines such as 'Pride is just another way of trying to live with my mistakes'. The hook 'When I'm down I drive the hearse' is particularly downbeat. With an odd bass line accompanying, the orchestration of the piece is odd, but is a great way to conclude The Incident.
The final four tracks, as I mentioned earlier, should not be ignored. 'Flicker' is particularly dense in comparison to 'I Drive the Hearse' but features a lovely synth pattern, a great harmonising bass line and a nice melody. One which I particularly favour is 'Black Dahlia', which is based around a cold keyboard ostinato, creating a rather depressing feel. The lyrics are of particular interest however. 'Bonnie The Cat' has a very dark feel, and 'Remember Me Lover' continues this tragic nature, and is a great finisher to the album.
The Incident reached #23 in the UK albums chart, which was quite an achievement for a Prog album. BBC wrote an article highlighting the new age of Prog that Porcupine Tree were emphasising with The Incident, and the band won many #1 spots with the Classic Rock magazine awards, including Best Album. Although there are moments of weakness in the album, I find that generally, it is a fine piece of modern Progressive music, whilst being extremely accessible for anybody who wanted to get into the genre. The artwork for the album is provided once again by Lasse Hoile, and it's one of my favourite pieces of work by the photographer. It's rather plain for him, but looks great nonetheless. The front cover of the man holding out his hand is particularly striking, and although it looks like it is stopping the listener from coming in, it is intriguing enough to encourage one to explore the world of Porcupine Tree. This isn't my favourite album by the band, but it is up there as one of the greats of modern Prog like 'The Whirlwind', and is definitely worth a listen!
Summary: Porcupine Tree's 10th studio album